November 14, 2012
Northern Australia Treated To Rare Full Solar Eclipse
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe OnlineA full solar eclipse plunged parts of Northern Australia into total darkness for more than two minutes on Wednesday, giving thousands of onlookers a spectacular show not seen Down Under in a decade.
However, the total eclipse was only visible over a small strip of land in northern Australia and in at least some areas cloudy skies and rain obscured the show. The eclipse was not viewable by anyone in North America as well.
A video of the eclipse is available on Slooh, the official space camera.
The eclipse was expected to give a $75 million boost to the North Queensland's tourism industry with many traveling from around the country and overseas to catch the best view of the solar event.
While those around northern Australia were treated to a full solar eclipse at 6:39 a.m. local time on Wednesday (2039 GMT Tuesday), a partial eclipse was still visible for many other parts of Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Antarctica.
The last total eclipse was visible in southern Australia in 2002; the next won´t occur until 2028.
According to NASA´s resident eclipse expert, Fred Espanek, between two and seven solar or lunar eclipses occur every year. However, not all of these will occur in places readily available for viewing. And typically, any given spot on the planet gets a total eclipse only once every 375 years.
Earthlings were not the only spectators to get a ringside seat for Wednesday´s solar eclipse–the European Space Agency´s (ESA) sun-watching Proba-2 satellite experienced three partial solar eclipses last night as well.
Since Proba-2 orbits Earth about 14.5 times per day, it can dip in and out of the Moon´s shadow around the time of the solar eclipse. The constant change in viewing angle of Proba-2 meant it passed through the shadow three times during the eclipse on Wednesday.
“The satellite also spent hours collecting data of the solar environment further away from the Sun before and after the main eclipse event, providing context for the ground-based observations,” said Joe Zender, Proba-2 mission manager.
Back on the ground, observers watched in awe as darkness swept across the horizon. Proba-2 scientist Anik De Groof watched the event with thousands of others along the Australian coast at Palm Cove.
“We got all a bit nervous when after sunrise the partially eclipsed Sun was covered by a big cloud, but 5 minutes before totality, the cloud dissolved and we could watch ℠Baily´s beads´ form — the effect where beads of sunlight shine through the rugged lunar landscape,” said de Groof. “At totality we could see the red chromosphere and the corona in the most beautiful conditions — it was fantastic!”
While another total eclipse is not expected in Australia until 2028, residents will have another chance to see a partial or “annular” solar eclipse in May 2013. Europe will experience an annular eclipse in November 2013. The next total solar eclipse occurs on November 3, 2014, which will be visible in Africa. The US won´t see another total eclipse until August 21, 2017.